"It is not about justice, it is about revenge"

 North Coast REP gets golden with Lerner & Loewe's CAMELOT

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(L-R) Brian Krinsky, Jered McLenigan, Lauren Weinberg - Photo Aaron Rumley

Sometimes during all this hullabaloo of theatre, going to see productions, to have what I saw marinate to then write about it, I think of all the wonderful things that have been done before and even during my time, that I am not aware of, like Lerner & Loewe's CAMELOT for example. Yes, of course, I heard about King Arthur in school, but my solid reference growing up was Disney's The Sword in the Stonelol. It's one of my favorite movies btw. So, when I went to see the production at NCR, I did so in full-blank mode.

If you come around often and read the views here, you know I am very particular about what I like/love. One of those things is a good Director's Note in the show's program and CAMELOT's director Jeffrey B. Moss shared a wonderful note with interesting insight . Post-show research, I learned about former U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy referencing the show and comparing King Arthur to JKF, to then see that the leads in the original cast in the sixties were Robert Goulet, Julie Andrews, and Richard Burton, like what?! Surely that was an absolute treat and, I share this because there is a gratitude that comes along when theatres produce a classic and in this particular case, with a cast like this, most of them in their Solana Beach debut which makes it more exciting because it is always good to see new faces on the stage. 

CAMELOT saw the stage in 1960, adapted from British writer T. H. White's novel The Once and Future King, with music by Frederick Loewe, lyrics, and a book by Alan Jay Lerner. The story references how young Arthur, nicknamed "wart", forgot his cousin's sword, and when going back to get it, he finds one in a stone that he pulls with minimum effort making him, the new king of Britain. In the first act, an adult King Arthur (Jered McLenigan) has been schooled, guided, and advised by Merlyn (Jason Heil) a powerful wizard who lets Arthur know that he will vanish and to be prepared as there are quite several things coming like his arranged marriage with Guenevere (Lauren Weinberg), meeting the avid swordsman Lancelot (Brian Krinsky), and also meeting Mordred (Nick Apostolina) someone who will unravel a tacit dynamic that might have been better left alone... Matthew Novotny's lighting design incorporated a hefty variety that teased a couple of characters in the first act and looked perfect as it pumped the suspense. Marty Burnett's set design with wooden-like floors and stone walls making it very medieval-looking, was divided into two small floors that actors would come up and down from that also made for good entrances and exits. Movotny's design was playful by sectioning characters' lighting apart from one another in a single scene and also using a tracker light that followed the leads when delivering resolving lines that contoured the performances adding thickness to the feeling of the experience.

Jered McLenigan & Jason Heil - photo. by Aaron Rumley 

Jason Heil's performance as Merlyn is as magical as the wizard himself and I wish more lines were written for this part as the intonation and traits were all there graciously characterized by Elisa Benzoni's costume design and Grace Wong as the assistant costume designer that included a red velvet cloak with matching beret, along with Peter Herman's hair & wigs design illustrating Merlyn's iconic long white beard and hair accessorized by a wooden cane, courtesy of Audrey Casteris's props made for a true vision and perfect introduction to the show. Guenevere's hair design with different do's that included long braids and hair partially down, truly embraced the character's look. 

Benzoni definitely brought it up a couple of notches as the costume design was meticulously detailed combining different materials into a single piece like for the Arthur character, having pleather puffed-up sleeves with wool for the rest of the garment, alternating different pieces and cuts that made it visually appealing. For Guenevere, also alternating materials and colors like green velvet and red velvet long dresses with triangular-shaped sleeves, adding satin to the mix that just emphasized the royal eyeful. This is turning into a piece dedicated to the wardrobe design but really, it deserves its own elaboration. It is tough to pick a piece of wardrobe for this production but one of my favorites was definitely Lancelot's vest-like top about his knight's uniform made out of a buttoned silver material that included a folded neck accessorized with a harness belt that made it very chique. Everybody looked amazing, fitting the story with the accessories on point.

Brian Krinsky (Lancelot) - Photo by Aaron Rumley

The cast performed the 17sh song list with new orchestrations by Steve Orich aligned and with harmony. Music director Daniel Lincoln was tucked in stage left also playing the piano live. There are musicians listed in the program but I am unsure if they were playing live or if there was a recording of their playing that Daniel managed during the performance. 

Lauren Weinberg has a beautifully trained voice that delivered melodic notes in songs like The Simple Joys of Maidenhood and the first Camelot reprise. She is also witty and feisty as the queen having great rapport with Jered McLenigan and Brian Krinsky. McLenigan's performance as Arthur truly delivered the humanity and conflict around the character's position. Krinsky is strong and intentioned as Lancelot with a potent, thundering voice that at least in the performance that I saw, did not need a microphone as his lavalier was maybe too close to his mouth and probably not fully modulated and/or calibrated as some of his notes, although on point, went through the mic clipped and fuzzy. Even though it was a bit distracting, it definitely did not pull from his performance. It is tricky sometimes to perform a musical that includes powerful notes in a small space. Matt Fitzgerald's sound design punctually wrapped all the bytes in place which made for both the spoken word in the dialogues to match the singing with the music. 

I do have a performance note for the day I was at the theatre where I sat in the second to last row close to the stage manager's booth and, I do not if it was either the manager or assistant stage manager but half their body was sticking out of the window for the two acts and THAT was very distracting. It is live theatre and things happen I guess.

CAST OF CAMELOTJacob Caltrider, Eban Rosenzweig, Jered McLenigan, Noah Weibel,
 Nick Apostolina (Back Row)Scott Hurst Jr. Brian Krinsky, Lauren Weinberg, Jason Heil,
 Elias Wygodny- Photo by Aaron Rumley 

Jeffrey B. Moss's direction showed the emphasis on each of the characters' intentions with marked mannerisms and strong glances. I also appreciated some of the silent pauses which gave air to the flow of the story allowing for the time to resonate. I love it when an actor can provoke a chill with just a head turn and Nick Apostolina is one of those actors with an "if looks can kill" flare to histrionism that is just exciting. The knights of the Round Table Jacob Caltrider (Sir Dinadan), Scott Hurst Jr., (Sir Lionel), and Elias Wygodny (Sir Sagramore) were charming and engaging with a sturdy delivery that enchanted audiences. The cherry on top was definitely Noah Weible as Tom of Warwick who with a brief participation won over the audience's hearts giving sense to the message of the story and definitely closing it out with a golden broche. 

CAMELOT not only involves a story about power in the monarchy and ruling a country. This story goes deep into the different layers surrounding love, its meaning, and how that comes through when challenges arise.

Currently playing until July 7th. For ticket prices and performance times, please click here

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